When my parents were in the midst of splitting up (for the second time) in the early 1990s, I packed some clothes and drove to Fairfax, Virginia to escape the toxic household I was living in. I was seventeen years old, my grades were failing, and I had zero direction in life – so I went looking for one of the few stable family members I knew: my grandmother on my father’s side we all referred to as “Mommer”. Mommer never questioned anything, and was always happy to see me. (It should be noted here that I was her ONE grandson in a sea of granddaughters and I had her late husband’s last name.) She was a old southern woman with dignity and class, and each morning when I was staying with her I would wake up to find her drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, and doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.
That’s a stereotype that most Gen Xers know: the grandparent doing the daily crossroad puzzle. Sure, there are variants that have come over time (like watching my generation’s parents, now the grandparents, doing sudoku and similar puzzles) but the concept itself seems to stay intact: the older you get, the more mental exercise you need.
That’s right: mental exercise.
I’m still pretty sharp at my age when it comes to observation and quick thinking. My generation was the first raised on a solid diet of computers and video games, and I think that gives us an edge. That said, I also know that lack of use is what weakens a muscle. Blogging was always supposed to my “mental stretching” from time to time. Forcing myself to conceive of something to journal about in order to write for the sake of writing is something pre-dating the Internet that I used to do by hand in notebooks.
So much of that got hijacked, though, in the past five years due to the advent of “social media”. Microblogging and time spent interacting online slowly encroached and eventually overcame the part of my life that was spent doing what I’m doing now: writing on my blog. I’ve quietly begun an intricate plan to shift that, but with how deeply my work is entrenched in the realm of social media it is going to take “more than a minute”.
Another part of mental exercise is the art of conversation. I mean, I talk all the time, but that is almost always tied to my work. I’ve been actively working on picking up a phone and calling people for the sake of conversation. Talking – actually talking – is something I think we all should do more. (I’m pretty sure that’s the “old man” in me forcing itself out.)
Along with running and going to the gym, this old man needs to get back into doing his mental exercise above and beyond work, books, and video games.
Speaking of running: I still hurt, but not nearly as much as last week. The forced sleep and rest are doing their magic, and tonight I might test to see how healed I actually am.
More to come.